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Wednesday, December 12 , 2018, 7:12 pm | Fair with Haze 56º


Letter to the Editor: NASA Warns of Catastrophic Drought in Western U.S.

The Goddard Institute for Space Study, a division of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, has released a study predicting that, unless immediate substantial efforts are undertaken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a 30- to 40-year drought will devastate the western half of North America.

“Decades-long mega-droughts in North America could be much worse than those experienced during medieval times, which led to the decline of native populations, if we continue on our current business-as-usual path.

“Jason Smerdon, a co-author and climate scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, described the implications of the study in stark terms, 'The 21st-century projections make the [previous] mega-droughts seem like quaint walks through the garden of Eden.'

“The mega-droughts are projected to hit the main agricultural regions in the United States — both California and the Midwest 'breadbasket.' The chronic water shortages that are anticipated in these regions under the business-as-usual scenario would make farming, as well as ranching in the American southwest, nearly impossible.

“This study reveals the flaw that underlies the ‘CO2 is plant food’ myth. While some types of plants benefit from a high-CO2 environment in a greenhouse where we can control all other variables, in the global climate, carbon pollution has other consequences. Among these are higher temperatures and more intense droughts, which are not good for plants or agriculture.

” ... If we follow the business-as-usual path, we move towards a future with extremely disruptive climate consequences, like mega-droughts and water shortages in major agricultural regions. If we follow the path to cut carbon pollution, we significantly reduce the risks of disruptive climate change.”

This story was published by The Guardian on Feb. 16 and is available by clicking here. The story includes an informative video made by GISS.

William Smithers
Santa Barbara

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